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D-15 Cuts Would Increase Class Sizes

The District 15 school board supported a plan to implement $6 million in budget cuts.

A plan to reduce District 15’s budget deficit by increasing class sizes garnered the support of the school board but brought concerned comments from some parents in attendance.

has been grappling with how to close a projected $9.6 million budget deficit for the 2012-2013 school year. School officials scaled back their first plan – – .

The final proposal presented by Superintendent Scott Thompson to the board did not balance the budget. Rather, Thompson proposed a little more than $6 million in cuts, with the remaining $3.6 million deficit being covered with reserves.

Thompson’s final proposal still includes an increase in average class size and the elimination of full-time staff positions. The Wednesday school board meeting was moved into the gym at Walter R. Sundling Junior High to accommodate the large crowd in attendance.

“These actions come with deep emotional angst. Individuals losing their income, benefits and professional status is no light matter. We have struggled with this and have never forgotten it,” Thompson said. “The recommendations being brought to you tonight were created in an attempt to impact students in the least possible manner.”

The district would strictly adhere to class size targets, resulting in the elimination of 13 full-time staff members for a savings of $715,000. In the past, if a school was on the border of needing another teacher, the district would round up and add the staff member. Under the new policy, the district would round down.

The district also would increase class sizes for kindergarten to sixth grade to 26 while class sizes for seventh and eighth grade would rise on average to 28 to save another $715,000.

The district is in the midst of contract negotiations with its teacher’s union. Thompson said that depending on how those negotiations go, several of the planned cuts could be reinstated.

Inverness resident Claire Miller said because the class size figures were averages, District 15 could have some classes in the mid-30s, adding that class sizes do make a difference in the quality of education a child receives.

“I moved from the city to the suburbs to have great schools,” she said. “Is this what we think is excellent? I don’t think so. I don’t think having children in a class of 31 children is excellent.”

However, several residents who spoke focused not on the proposed cuts, but on teacher salaries and pension costs.

“The reason we are here today is because our finances are out of balance. Expenditures are currently exceeding revenues at an alarming pace,” Palatine resident Jennifer Zold said. “Make no mistake the rate and rise of expenditures is the root of the great divide in our budget.”

The district also would eliminate four other positions related to art, music and PE staff for a savings of $220,000. Also, all program assistants in regular education classrooms would be converted to part-time, saving $1.258 million.

Palatine Patch has uploaded Thompson’s entire presentation, and it is attached to this story.

“This doesn’t solve our problem,” Thompson said. “It’s the first step in getting us to a solution. So we’re going to need to find other ways to save money to fix the structural deficit.”

Without the budget cuts Thompson is proposing, the budget deficit would erode district reserves from about $49 million to about $3.8 million by 2016. Thompson said with the cuts he is proposing the district’s reserves in 2016 only fall to $28 million.

“Using the fund balance is OK, if we have a long-term plan to fix the structural deficit,” school board member Manjula Sriram said. Overall, school board members were supportive of the plan.

The public will have another month to vote on the plan before the school board will vote on it.

Lamplighter1980 February 11, 2012 at 07:22 AM
http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20110609/news/706099917/ "Both parties acknowledge that each made genuine and meaningful proposals,” it stated. “However, the parties were unable to reach an agreement at this time.” Looks like both parties tried but just couldn't close the deal. I think this speaks volumes of the willingness of both parties to at least listen to each other.
Mike McGuire February 13, 2012 at 10:19 AM
Lamplighters, I dont really think it says much of anything. Both sides HAVE to say exactly what they said. Doesn't mean much at all. Actually agreeing to open negotiations would mean something. Anything else is likely lip service.
Vicki Wilson February 13, 2012 at 01:56 PM
Exactly Mike. Exactly.
Lamplighter1980 February 16, 2012 at 01:36 AM
It sounds like they did open up negotiations, but for what ever reason they could not come to terms with a change. To me that doesn't sound like both sides were stubborn but tried to come to a solution to the problem at the end of last year. I am wondering what the hang up was? Mike when you say open negotiations do you mean in the public?
Maryb February 17, 2012 at 03:37 AM
http://triblocal.com/palatine/2012/02/09/district-15-board-supportive-of-new-list-of-cuts/ Lisa Nuss, president of the District 15 teacher’s union, said she was skeptical about the projected deficit and the public way it has been discussed, calling it a “negotiating tactic.” Here we go. Remember 2006.
Scott February 17, 2012 at 03:48 AM
"and the public way it has been discussed" I guess discussing these things in the light of day don't sit well with Lisa Nuss.
Bucephalus February 17, 2012 at 04:35 AM
Well that's not really a negotiation. That's a public forum. I can't think of any other job where one side is required to discuss their stance publicly. None of us were in the Board room when they were privately discussing what cuts to suggest, we only saw the list of suggestions AFTER Thompson presented it. Why do we demand that the teachers forego that?
Bucephalus February 17, 2012 at 04:44 AM
Purely from a skeptic point of view, what did you expect from CTC? Them to say "Oh yes, we're overpaid, underworked, greedy teachers, and everything you've said is completely correct. Please, take some of our pay and benefits, we don't deserve them. Thank you for calling us out on it." What I think is worth noting is looking back at projected deficits from previous years. They either didn't occur or were magnitudes off from what they projected. Even if you remove Stimulus funding and last year's "windfall," the deficits were still far worse than what ending up occurring. Do I think it's wise to budget more than you'll actually spend? Of course. But do I believe that the CTC is unfairly maligning the budget while the School Board is being nothing but fiduciary angels? Hell no. CTC is spot on calling this a negotiating tactic, and I'll be very curious to see what they have to say about the projected deficit.
Lamplighter1980 February 17, 2012 at 06:25 AM
Of course this is all politcal theater. I have a child in band and orchestra and it was strange how a petition and some people speaking at the meeting made that issue go away. Don't get me wrong, I am happy they are not proposing to cut it, but it made me wonder why the BOE stance on it shifted very quickly. It seemed like they were trying to stir up a hornet's nest of parents and teachers to get upset over the cuts. I wonder if they get another petition to save the next item on thier ax list will they react the same? Only time will tell. The community can only hope level heads will prevail here on both sides. I am curious what makes Lisa Nuss so skeptical? Does she have any numbers to back up her view points? Why doesn't she share them?
Scott February 17, 2012 at 02:51 PM
Lamplighter - remember that the original list was just a list of *possible* areas to be cut; I don't think (at that time) one area was favored over any other. But I think it was easy to remove dropping band from the list in that it was only 4% of the money to be saved anyways. I agree with you about Lisa Nuss. If she thinks the districts numbers are wrong she needs to point out where. Talk is cheap; let's see some real data from her.
Bucephalus February 17, 2012 at 03:48 PM
It wasn't a "possible" list. It was the recommended list for cuts. It's strange that the total of all the "possible" cuts just magically happened to total the projected deficit. How convenient that taking that list in its entirety would solve the deficit. If it was an honest "possible" list there would have been other options totaling well more than the deficit to allow the community to voice their opinions for what to cut and save. So you're sort of right Scott, no area was favored more than any other. The entire list was preferred.
Vicki Wilson February 17, 2012 at 05:14 PM
Of course it was a "possible" list. Nothing is set in stone until the Board votes on it. The Superintendent reports to the Board, not the other way around. The Board can do what they wish with the plan Thompson presented. The reason the list "magically" happened to total the projected deficit is because that is what the Board TOLD Thompson to do - to come up with a list that equalled the projected deficit amount. He was unable to attach a number to any savings that could be realized from the CTC contract since that is out of his control. You really should start coming to the Board meetings Bucephalus!
Bucephalus February 17, 2012 at 05:30 PM
I've been there Vicki. I prefer to sit, watch, and listen. But you, again, miss the point. You all have been saying that the CTC contract is out of his control and therefore he couldn't presume any savings from that. I agree. You all then say that this was only a possible list of cuts, that Thompson wasn't ACTUALLY recommending they cut orchestra, or activity buses, or anything. You all say he was just proposing a list of what COULD be cut. I call bogus. If it was just a list of what COULD be cut, there should have been more options on it. There could, nay, should have been more options. Less palatable options perhaps but more options. By presenting a list of exactly the cuts he took a "POSSIBLE" list and turned it into a "RECOMMENDED" list of cuts. And we as the public were left with two options: take the cuts as presented or run a deficit. So no Vicki, they were not a "POSSIBLE" list of cuts, those were the "RECOMMENDED" list of cuts.
Vicki Wilson February 17, 2012 at 05:39 PM
The Board can tell him to go back and give them more options. You are just nitpicking words - "possible" or "recommended" - it does not matter what they are called. But there just is not a whole lot to pick from since he only has 18% of the budget with which to work. So, there aren't many "possibilities" to choose from!
Margaret February 17, 2012 at 06:11 PM
The Daily Herald put out an article a week ago about a 10 million dollar budget deficit problem with Indian Prairie School District 204 in Naperville They, too, are going through a contract negotiation with the lteachers union this year. The circumstances are very similar to District 15's situation. Howe ver, District 204 has had much less drama in the media about it because it has been handled much differently than District 15. It appears that D15 has chosen to stir up a hornets nest for a purpose. No such media war exists in the neighboring district because they are not seeking politics over people and straight forward business. Why is D15 seeking such drama? What is their true, underlying purpose for these actions? D15'S methods in creating a frenzy are very unhealthy and unnecessary for all involved. They need to start showing some leadership and take control of the situation. D 15 is looking very foolish right now.
Scott Herr February 17, 2012 at 06:41 PM
The difference between "possible" and "recommended" is important. There were two pages of possible budget reductions presented by Superintendent Thompson to the CTC on January 18th and to staff and the public on January 23rd. These options were presented to get feedback from stakeholders before making a recommendation to the board on February 8th. You'd have to watch the January 23rd video to hear the exact words but I believe Mr. Thompson clearly stated that some combination but not all of the 2nd page options would be required to reach the $10 million savings target required to balance the D15 budget. As noted in D15's February 16th press release "The Board endorsed the plan Mr. Thompson presented. Now the District is set to continue soliciting community feedback and incorporating it into a final budget reduction proposal for the Board to act upon at its next regular meeting, which is scheduled for Wednesday, March 14." A link to provide feedback is in the press release at http://www.ccsd15.net/pages/CCSD15/News/D15_Board_to_vote_on_budget_re
Scott Herr February 17, 2012 at 06:42 PM
D15 isn't "seeking such drama" and, on the contrary, has a well-defined process for solving the deficit problem. As I noted in comments to another Patch article, District 15 has been discussing its budget problems for several months. Anyone wanting to learn more about District 15's process for solving the deficit problem can take a look at the following press releases: - Dec 19 "Budget forums detail District 15’s financial standing" http://www.ccsd15.net/pages/CCSD15/News/Budget_forums_detail_District_ - Jan 5 "Budget Update: Next forums will seek stakeholders' solutions" http://www.ccsd15.net/pages/CCSD15/News/Budget_Update__Next_forums_wil - Jan 24 "Budget Update: District 15 seeks feedback on potential budget reductions" http://www.ccsd15.net/pages/CCSD15/News/Budget_Update__District_15 - Feb 16 "D15 Board to vote on budget reductions in March" http://www.ccsd15.net/pages/CCSD15/News/D15_Board_to_vote_on_budget_re
Margaret February 17, 2012 at 07:07 PM
No is denying that you have a clearly defined process. It's just not a healthy process. It has generated a great deal of division and anxiety that didn't need do be there. True leadersship knows the difference.
Vicki Wilson February 17, 2012 at 07:09 PM
Margaret - how is the process different in D204?
Scott February 17, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Past news for D204 (which may repeat itself this year); we're trying to avoid going down this path: http://archive.chicagobreakingnews.com/2010/03/145-teachers-hit-with-pink-slips-in-prairie-district-204.html "Calling it "sobering" and "depressing," officials in Indian Prairie School District 204 decided this week to lay off 145 teachers and increase budget cuts to a total of $21.4 million for the 2010-11 school year. Board members on Monday approved $12.2 million in cuts, which come on top of $9.2 million in cuts approved in December Officials said the reduction of the teachers, representing 6.7 percent of the staff, won't appreciably increase class sizes. Fifty-five elementary school teachers will be fired. The maximum class size will increase from 29 to 31 in second through fifth grades. Class sizes will stay the same in kindergarten and first grade. At the middle school level, 30 teachers will be let go, while another 35 teachers will be removed at the high school level. Maximum class sizes at those two levels will increase by two students, which in some high school classes could mean as many as 35 to 37 students, officials said. Special education and preschool programs will lose 25 positions."
Margaret February 17, 2012 at 07:30 PM
The entire economy is sobering and depressing. Every facet of business is currently faced with tough decisions. People expect that to be the case. However, dragging it out with over exposure in the media and too much information is just as damaging to people as no information at all.
Mark February 17, 2012 at 07:36 PM
While I cannot speak for Indian Prairie School District 204 in Naperville, I do appreciate District 15 taking the effort to involve the public in the issue early. I would not have wanted the school board to simply make the decisions in a vacuum. Yes, there has been a lot of commotion, such as the band director's petition drive to save band and orchestra from one of the potential cuts. But in my mind there was good that came from it, and had it been decided without warning during an empty school board meeting it would have had a far different outcome. I think it is better to be open and upfront, the earlier the better, so that the public can better participate. Just my thought.
Scott February 17, 2012 at 07:43 PM
Margaret - what has been the 'over exposure' and 'too much information'? The five year spreadsheets? The list of possible cuts? The public meetings?
Margaret February 17, 2012 at 08:12 PM
It has all been a bit too much when you put it all together. There is no way to make everyone happy with any decision which is made. I really dislike the public image we have now established because all of this. Palatine looks like a train wreck. Just ask around.
CASA February 17, 2012 at 10:23 PM
Margaret-I agree with your comment that true leadership knows the difference, and so do many residents when it comes to commenting here. It seems to me that the division you refer to is mainly caused by some contributors who find it difficult to have a civil discourse with someone who thinks differently than they do. I have little time for extremists on any side whose behavior is best limited to a Jerry Springer show, but I would welcome discussing pros and cons with anyone who is able to do so in a civilized manner. Division is also caused by people who play the FUD game - sowing Fear, Uncertaintly and Doubt into a discussion, often because it helps sway concentration away from them or their standpoint. Perhaps they are the ones who try to make it look like an "unhealthy process."
Lamplighter1980 February 18, 2012 at 07:00 AM
I too applaud the open meetings that they have had, but I am confused about the rush now to cut millions when there is so much in reserves. I don't want my child's education diminished because of these cuts. I remember that last year the patch reported on the district deficit spending millions of dollars then in October they reported that they found $4 or 5 million. That is a huge. What happens if we cut services to our kids and we find another X million next fall? I would rather tap into some of the reserves. I know the board wants to keep a reserve of x% (I think it is 25%) so as long as the reserves are above that can't you still keep funding the things you propose to cut?
Thunderchief68 February 18, 2012 at 01:03 PM
Lamplighter1980 - The money in the fund balances, the largest being the Education Fund, are not "reserves". The amount you see are the dollars on a specific date, the end of the fiscal year June 30th. From that point the fund deminishes as the bills are paid until anonter infusion of cash arrives in November or December when the county collects the property tax. The fund balances are identical to that of your checking account. It peaks on payday and then retreats as you pay your bills. If you go veiw the video at the February 8th Board meeting, Mike Adamczyk delivers an excellent description of how the system functions. In fact two years ago because Cook County was late in transfering funds to all districts, the funds got low enought D15 was preparing to borrow money using Tax Anticipation Warrants so that they could continue operations. Here the link to the Board meeting video:http://www.ccsd15.net/pages/CCSD15/Board_of_Education_Group
Mark February 18, 2012 at 01:16 PM
Thunderchief68, you are 100% correct. To put it into dollar terms, at the start of the current budget on July 1 the fund balance was about $55 million. Now, consider that the total property tax levy is about $110 million for which roughly half comes in the Spring and the other half in the Fall. So, in essence, our reserves only cover the District for 6 months. As it is right now District 15 is praying that Cook County is not late collecting property taxes, and/or the State is late in paying its bills, both of which are all too common. To think of this money as "available" to plug a budget gap is, frankly, utterly insane. I trust that Lamplighter simply didn't understand the purpose of a fund balance.
Lamplighter1980 February 19, 2012 at 01:49 AM
I see the issue with the state being late on their payment as a major concern. Thanks for clarifying.
John Choi February 22, 2012 at 05:35 AM
Great discussion on a gravely serious issue facing our community. Our state gov't could add to our community's fiscal challenges. Illinois Schools May Chip In on Teachers’ Retirement: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/19/education/illinois-schools-may-pay-part-of-teachers-retirement.html?_r=2

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